In his 1889 essay “The Decay of Lying”, Oscar Wilde mentioned that ‘Life imitates art far more than art imitates life’. The literal meaning of his quote comes home if a few pieces of art are carefully inspected. Mentioned below is a compilation of fifteen uncanny times that some of the most popular science fiction/ dystopian novels, movies and drama series foretold reality.
1. From The Earth To The Moon
In 1865, author Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon was published, which describes three Americans’ missions to land on the Moon. It presents eerie similarities to the first real moon landing that occurred approximately a century later. This is an example of life imitating art. NASA named its command module ‘Columbia’ while Verne’s fictional spacecraft is called ‘Columbiad’. Both have similar dimensions.
2. Star Wars
Another instance of life imitating art would be the famous Star Wars. Nearly every science geek’s paradise, the original Star Wars movie featured Princess Leia’s call for help via the employment of a holographic message. The twenty-first century witnessed holographs being incorporated for multi-purposes, ranging from ceremonial openings in sports competitions to circuses that substitute real animals with holographic imagery to prevent animal abuse.
George Orwell’s 1984, a classic dystopian fiction, was first published in 1949. It thematically explores the impacts of a surveillance state upon the citizens of Oceania. Dystopian fiction as a genre itself anticipates the destructive reality, which is relevant proof of life imitating art. Today, technology, particularly social media, can be used for surveillance by Silicon Valley. The users’ data is sold to other companies, using the data obtained to advertise their products to their target audience.
4. The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins sheds light upon the cruel reality of the increasing economic and social inequality between the top 1% and the rest of the world. The trilogy can be viewed as a metaphor for the disparity in the lifestyle of the citizens in developed and underdeveloped countries. The trilogy leaves the reader hoping for a more equal and just society, summed up best by President Snow’s quote- “Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.”
5. V For Vendetta
The 2005 dystopian thriller portrays people’s struggle against an authoritarian regime, besides a Civil War in the US and a pandemic-ridden world. With the haunting race riots in the US in 2020 and the emergence of the pandemic, which has led to endless lockdowns, one cannot miss the parallel between the reel and the real.
These days, people use Skype, Whatsapp, Zoom and similar applications for video calling. The exciting part is, this method was featured in movies decades ago. One of the earliest references would be the 1927 film Metropolis, which shows an analogue videophone mounted on the wall.
An episode in season three of Black Mirror, “Nosedive”, sheds light upon the use of social-credit scores as a way of monitoring citizens. The ‘rating system’ shown in the episode is oddly similar to the ‘rating system’ used by social media platforms, taxi services and food delivery applications.
8. “Be Right Back.”
Another episode from the Black Mirror series portrays the strange resemblance between a robot and its human counterpart. This reflects the reality of the twenty-first century, as AI is increasingly employed every day to create human-like robots.
9. “Fifteen Million Merits.”
“Fifteen Million Merits” is the second episode from season one of the Black Mirror series. It anticipates a future where forced physical labour would be exchanged for gaining merits. This episode reveals a world where humans lead a monotonous life in isolation. As for entertainment, they have access to reality shows only from the confines of their houses. This is pretty much how the present reality is because of the pandemic.
10. The Terminator
Released in 1984, the writer-director James Cameron’s The Terminator accurately predicted the employment of drones for surveillance and defence- a technology quite commonly used by the armed forces across the globe. Moreover, the purpose of drones has been extended beyond the field of security in the present time.
11. Ghost In The Shell
Ghost in the Shell is a live-action adaptation of a popular anime. It presents a unique technology called the ‘thermoptic suit’, which allows the wearer to become invisible to the naked eye. At present, there is a cloak based on retro-reflective technology, which has been created by Japanese scientists that allow the wearer to attain near-invisibility.
12. The Truman Show
Released in 1998, the summer hit The Truman Show accurately depicts society’s obsession with the next phase of reality television- one reliant on voyeuristic programming based upon watching other people’s everyday lives. People derive a sense of pleasure by peeping into other persons’ lives. Moreover, some like presenting their lives as reality shows for others to watch. This has become quite a reality now.
13. Fahrenheit 451
The dystopian novel first published in 1953 incorporates ‘seashells’ and ‘thimble radios’ that resemble earbuds and headsets with Bluetooth capacity. These are depicted as capable of producing “an electronic ocean of sound and music“, thus, reflecting a resemblance to AirPods and earphones used today.
14. Beyond This Horizon
The 1942 novel written by Robert Heinlein depicts mattresses filled with water to provide comfort to sleepers. The folks of 2021 refer to such a mattress as a ‘waterbed’ and use it for medical purposes ranging from treatment of arthritis to curing joint back pain.
15. “The Waldo Moment.”
Besides the earlier discussed episodes from Black Mirror, another episode from the show where the protagonist becomes famous using a cartoon avatar as his proxy. With the rise of content creation and social media platforms, access to developing one’s avatar has become a piece of cake.
While the much-anticipated driver-less cars are yet to become mainstream, the above mentioned binge-worthy dystopian sci-fi works make one realize the fragile and blurred boundaries between the worlds of fiction and reality, leaving one to question whether art imitates life or life imitates art.